bookmark_borderWe were deceived: Q4 GDP was revised down, not up

When the revised estimate for Q4’s GDP growth was announced to be 0.3% (up from 0.1%), I was a bit surprised, because I didn’t think Q4 seemed to be all that wonderful.

However, Edmundo has now analysed the underlying figures and it turns out that GDP was actually revised down, not up.

His graph is not very clear, though, so here’s my attempt at explaining what happened.

The blue line shows the old estimates from January: Q3 GDP was estimated at some £313bn, and Q4 GDP at £315.845m, thus growing by 0.1%.

The red line shows the revised estimates from this month: Q3 turned out to be much worse than initially estimated, at less than £307bn, whereas the Q4 estimate was almost right, getting adjusted down to £315.712m, and the growth from Q3 to Q4 was therefore 0.3%.

In other words, GDP was slightly lower in Q4 than initially estimated, but the growth is much bigger because Q3 was much worse.

There is therefore nothing whatsoever to celebrate about the revised figures, and the ONS must have been deliberately lying to the public when they sent out a press release called “Services growth in December pushes up GDP estimate”, given that the GDP estimate was actually down.

bookmark_borderTheft as marketing

It looks like Sony have vandalised an important landmark in Amsterdam in order to promote a new game (hat-tip: Dina).

It probably seemed like a fun idea to Sony’s marketing department, but I do hope they will be prosecuted harshly, because it sets a very dangerous precedent if you can commit crimes without punishment if it’s for marketing purposes.

I mean, in the first instance it might only be the letters in Hollywood’s logo that get stolen, but what will the next step be?

Will you be allowed to hijack planes to promote a new plane game, or perhaps even blow up a building to promote a new version of Worms?

bookmark_borderBrown the bully

Originally uploaded by trix0r

The revelations of the past few days that Brown is a paranoid bully cannot have come as much of a surprise for readers of this blog – this is exactly what I surmised nearly two three years ago.

Some people have come to his defence saying that he’s just forceful, or troubled, or focused.

I’m sure most bullies have psychological issues, but that doesn’t excuse them. A bully is defined by their acts, not by their mental health (the CED defines a bully as “a person who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people”).

As former Father of the Chapel at Collins, I can only condemn those who think they need to intimidate their staff to get good performance – in my experience, the opposite is true.

bookmark_borderFingersuttende Amaia

I’ve got sore eyes 🙁
Originally uploaded by PhylB

Sutter er ikke nær så udbredte i Skotland som i Danmark. (De har en idé om, at man ikke kan kombinere amning med sutter, så det er kun de babyer, der får flaske fra begyndelsen, der får sutter.)

Men Amaia har (som Anna før hende) et meget stort suttebehov, så når der ikke lige er et bryst i nærheden, er den eneste måde at tilfredsstille hende på ofte at stikke en finger i munden på hende.

Hvis hun slægter Anna på, går der nu nok ikke ret lang tid, før hun opdager, at der ingen mælk kommer ud af fars finger, og så er det slut med den fornøjelse.

Men det er nu ret sødt, så længe det varer.

bookmark_borderA Future Fair For All

A Future Fair For All
Originally uploaded by viralbus

It’s great to see that Labour have realised that what we all really need is to forget about the recession and have more fun.

In particular, they will now build a huge Future Fair for us all, by which I assume they mean a science fiction-themed fun fair.

I hope it’ll be built close to Glasgow so that we can go often.

bookmark_borderApplying the Oxbridge model to universities in the internet age

University College
Originally uploaded by Lawrence OP

My alma mater is like most universities in that it is a single institution that does research, teaches students and awards degrees.

However, Oxford and Cambridge use a different model, the collegiate system:

The collegiate system is at the heart of the University’s success, giving students and academics the benefits of belonging to both a large, internationally renowned institution and to a smaller, interdisciplinary, academic college community. It enables leading academics and students across subjects and year groups, and from different cultures and countries to come together to share ideas.

All Colleges invest heavily in facilities for extensive library and IT provision, accommodation and welfare support, and sports and social events. The relatively small number of students at each college allows for close and supportive personal attention to be given to the induction, academic development and welfare of individuals.

Basically, what is called a university elsewhere is here split into a university and many colleges:

Colleges […]

  • Select and admit undergraduate students, and select graduate students after they are admitted […]
  • Provide accommodation, meals, common rooms, libraries, sports and social facilities, and pastoral care for their students.
  • Are responsible for students’ tutorial teaching and welfare.

The University

  • Determines the content of the courses within which college teaching takes place.
  • Organises lectures and seminars.
  • Provides a wide range of resources for teaching and learning in the form of libraries, laboratories, museums, computing facilities, etc.
  • Admits and supervises graduate students, examines theses.
  • Sets and marks examinations.
  • Awards degrees.

Modern universities are facing many challenges, especially because they’re being paid to produce as many graduates as possible, which easily leads to grade inflation and falling academic standards in general.

Also, streaming lectures on the internet is a great idea, but it means that the lecturer doesn’t need to be physically close to the students any more.

I’m therefore wondering whether it would make sense to redesign universities along Oxbridge lines.

To be concrete, here’s what I have in mind:

Create colleges that are responsible for teaching students. They should be relatively small (perhaps up to 500 students per college), multidisciplinary, and focusing not just on academic standards, but also on creating a great environment for students, what with libraries, parties, cafés and sports.

The remaining universities would seem much smaller that current universities, because all they would be doing would be research, post-graduate supervision, public lectures (mainly on the internet, perhaps), exams and awarding degrees.

Given that the lectures could be made available on the internet, and shipping exam papers around the world is easy, there is no reason why a college would have to be in the same physical location as the university. Also, the students could attend lectures at more than one university at the same time.

For instance, one could image a college in Glasgow offering a study programme in linguistic typology that would lead to a degree from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, but that included lectures by leading typologists at universities in California, Australia and Denmark.

Because the colleges wouldn’t be marking exams, there wouldn’t be any point in their dumbing down – if they were being too nice to their students, all they’d achieve would be unsatisfied students that failed their exams.

And although there would of course be universities offering easy degrees, the very best universities would have a reputation to protect, and they would therefore be likely to be extremely rigorous.

All in all a win-win situation.